Headwear might not be the first thing you search for when summer rolls around – swim shorts, Cuban collars and sunglasses probably all come first. But, as an alternative form of sun protection – and a potentially stylish wardrobe addition – a summer hat is a fine investment for the right head.
To save you from reaching for that trusty battered beanie, we’ve pulled together a comprehensive guide on hats that work specifically in the summer months. So, from the most important styles to how to find the one that suits you, here’s how to get headwear right when the sun has got its hat on.
But first, there’s only one rule you need to remember when trying to pull off any style of headwear, as Arianna Larelli, a designer at Topman, explains: “Just wear your hat with confidence, that’s the real key.”
The Cap Styles To Know
First developed by the Brooklyn Excelsiors in 1860, the baseball cap became widely popular by 1900 and the style’s continued use in the sport is arguably why it’s become a menswear staple. When someone thinks of a ‘cap’, chances are they picture the baseball variety. It’s also had a bit of a rejuvenation recently, with its second life as the ‘dad cap’ – it’s a style that’s one and the same, with just a little less structure at the front.
The baseball cap might have been the ideal accompaniment to tie-dye T-shirts and baggy jeans in the 1990s, but recent seasons have seen the style work its way into the modern sports luxe and athleisure uniform.
For a contemporary streetwear look though, try wearing patterned or slogan designs with T-shirts, slim jeans or joggers, and a pair of leather or statement trainers. Alternatively, for a more pared back take, opt for a minimal, plain colour cap made from premium wool or cotton and combine with a shirt and some tailored shorts.
“Simple outfits can be accessorised with a good snapback,” says Larelli. “Clean, Scandi-inspired styling – think minimal outfits with strong lines such as tailored shirts and fitted trousers – can really benefit from a good baseball cap.”
Five Panel Cap
From its skater roots, the five panel cap went from relatively niche to being stocked by every major high street brand in little time at all. In what could be described as the lovechild between the baseball cap and the classic cycling cap, the five panel features just that – five stitched panels make up the design, which is completed by a slightly shorter, straight peak as opposed to the baseball’s longer, curved version.
Despite being popular today, the five panel is still far less common than the baseball cap, and retains an element of cool because of it. While it’s true that Supreme was one of the first major brands championing the style, you don’t need to be a skater – or a streetwear-obsessed hypebeast – to wear one. Simply pair with a white tee and some navy pleated trousers and you’re ready to go.
Train Driver Cap
…Or otherwise known as the engineer cap, railroad cap, field cap or fatigue cap. This distinctive design has seen plenty of manual labour, whether it fought coal on steam-powered locomotives, or on the battlefield as part of its duty with the US army, when it was first introduced in 1943 as part of its standard-issue uniform.
Favoured by everyone from Fidel Castro to Chris Martin, this is a style not quite as versatile as the previous two, yet it arguably has bags more individuality. We will say though, it’s best not worn with other military style garb – you don’t want to risk World War II reenactment territory.
The early 2000s staple is making a surprise mini-comeback. Once permanently glued to the heads of non-truckers Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake, it’s now being re-rendered by modern day hype brands such as Off-White, and has duly been picked up on by the likes of H&M. Yes, the cheaply made cap that started life as a promotional freebie given out at American gas stations in the 1960s, is now a fashion trend again.
Essentially a baseball cap with a mesh rear half, the trucker hat naturally fits in with the logo trend that the fashion world is currently obsessed with. Why not go for an ironic slogan hat to display your knowledge of its origins or support your favourite sports team with their own take?
The Summer Hat Styles To Get Your Head Around
The Bucket Hat
Uniqlo x JW Anderson
If you’re not all that hot on the cap but don’t want anything wide-brimmed, the humble bucket hat makes for an on-trend summer hat alternative. Famously worn by US soldiers in the Vietnam War, it was appropriated for civilian use following the conflict – much like chinos and the bomber jacket – before becoming popular among the peace movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and later, wide-eyed ravers in the 1990s.
Fast-forward to now and it’s trending again, after making a controversial return to fashion’s collective consciousness over the last few years. Like the snapback, they combine well with streetwear-inspired pieces such as printed tees and oversized sweatshirts, as well as casual warm-weather staples such as short-sleeved shirts and board shorts.
Unlike the baseball cap, however, the bucket hat is summer-specific. It’s a style for sun-kissed festivals and long days at the beach so remember to pack this one away once the sun starts to fade. “No one wants to see a bucket hat in winter,” says Adam Walker, managing editor of The Male Stylist. “It looks a tad tragic.”
The Panama Hat
A Panama hat is a brimmed straw hat that was originally produced (confusingly) in Ecuador in the 17th century. Traditionally woven by hand from toquilla straw, which only grows in the coastal mountains of Ecuador, the best versions are still made in Cuenca, the most accessible city in the mountain region, where the majority of the weaving is carried out.
The perfect accompaniment to a cotton or linen summer suit due to its breathable open weave, the Panama hat has long been associated with tropical leisure time. “Lightweight hats are always great for days at the beach, music festivals or holidays. The Panama hat works well on warm summer nights as it won’t look ridiculous once the sun goes down,” explains Walker.
We suggest teaming a straw or cotton Panama with neutral- or pastel-coloured lightweight suiting, a breathable linen shirt and pair of suede loafers for an outfit that wouldn’t look out of place at Pitti Uomo.
The ideal hat for a man looking to make a statement while sheltering from the summer sun, the typical fedora is around 4.5 inches high and includes a crease along the length of the hat, with a ‘pinch’ towards the front.
Derived from a traditional Tyrolean brimmed hat, the fedora first became popular in Europe in the early 20th century, with its fame extending to the US in 1924 when a style worn by Prince Edward on a royal visit was copied and mass-produced by Sears Roebuck.
Although classic felt and wool designs can be worn year-round (even in summer), making them an excellent addition to any modern hat collection, it’s true that the fedora is perhaps not the most practical summer hat. Despite the wide brim, it’s large and hard to pack, and due to its formality very hard to style. It can work with a high-low street style look, though, and if you have to wear a suit to the office it can make you look like a boss.